Teaching computational physics as a laboratory sequence

Ross L. Spencer
2005 American Journal of Physics  
The undergraduate curriculum in most physics departments is so full that adding new courses is difficult, but the training of an undergraduate physics student is greatly enhanced by learning computational methods. The standard method of addressing this need at most universities is to offer one 3-credit hour computational physics course, either early on as an introduction, or later, when it can address more advanced problems. In the Department of Physics and Astronomy at Brigham Young University
more » ... am Young University we have chosen to use the standard 3 credit hours allotted to computational physics in a different way. Computational methods are taught as 3 separate 1-credit hour laboratories, one for sophomores, one for juniors, and one for seniors. (The usual semester load of a physics student is 14-16 credit hours.) Students are introduced to symbolic methods using Maple when they are sophomores, and to numerical methods using Matlab beginning in their junior year. This helps prepare the students for their upper division courses, prepares them for the research they will do for their senior project, and spreads computational methods throughout the undergraduate curriculum.
doi:10.1119/1.1842751 fatcat:2v4jrzzhmvfv7e46x6gi5qfu2u